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Steve Bookbinder

By Steve Bookbinder

Jul 17, 2019


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3 Pieces of Advice to Take Your B2B Sales Demos From Boring to Brilliant

Steve Bookbinder

By Steve Bookbinder

Jul 17, 2019

3 Pieces of Advice to Take Your B2B Sales Demos From Boring to Brilliant

Imagine you only have about nine seconds to reel in your prospect and land them as a customer. 

That’s a short time frame to capture their attention and showcase your services. 

What do you do?

In B2B sales, and in SaaS sales specifically, your opportunity to compel a prospect to action comes down to how you conduct your sales demos.

A brilliant sales demo can quickly lead to a closed deal, but, on the flip side, an underwhelming demo can lead a potential customer to look elsewhere. 

It’s at this stage of your sales process where the prospect agrees to the demo in order to learn and assess whether or not your solution is right for their needs. 

What is a successful sales demo?

A sales demonstration, or a sales demo, is when a sales rep delivers a presentation to a prospective customer to show them the features, capabilities, and value of the product or service. The purpose of a sales demo is to close a deal. (Source: HubSpot)

The formula for a highly-effective sales demo is the cumulative result of research, process, and most importantly, an effective discovery.

However, 69% of prospects find their business needs are not met on the first call. 

In other words, B2B salespeople are not approaching the sale from a buyer-centric mindset, which could be why many salespeople are not meeting their target quotas.  

In fact, only 53% of sales professionals made quotas in 2018 according to CSO Insights, the research division of Miller Heiman Group, that recently released their Annual Sales Performance Study, “Selling in the Age of Ceaseless Change.”

Understanding your prospect’s business needs is imperative to how you build and execute your sales approach. 

Knowing what your prospects want and need tells you how they will use your solution, why they need it, and how much they’re willing to pay for it. 

All of this should influence how you deliver your sales demo.

Now that we’ve established the importance of the sales demo within your sales process, let’s explore three elements to include in your next demo to take it from boring to brilliant: 

1. Be humble, yet confident in your discovery call.

Most salespeople come into a product demo with the assumption that they know the product is the right fit for the prospect. (Understandably so because if they don’t believe it, how can they convince anyone else?) 

But that’s the wrong attitude. Start instead with a humble attitude.

That means not being afraid to ask and answer all the scary questions (many of which are captured by what IMPACT calls The Big 5), for example, objection-surfacing questions, pricing questions, thought-provoking questions, clarifying questions, etc...

The act of asking questions means you’re curious and answering them means you’re trustworthy. 

It means you want to learn and to help. You can’t know all the answers, especially when it comes to understanding a prospect’s motivations and unique business needs, but you’re trying to bridge that gap; not just go in for the sale.

You should also do your homework before you go into a sales demo. 

Have a specific target audience that tells you which kinds of businesses can get a more positive return on investment (ROI) from your solution than from their current processes or other similar products. 

Then, research the company you’re talking to so you can make sure it is that kind of business. 

In addition, research the individual you’re speaking to so you can understand why they would personally benefit from your solution. 

Gathering this information should give you a certain amount of confidence that your solution is the right choice. 

But, again, there’s a distinction between confidence and certainty.

Confidence says, “I can learn how to help you.” Certainty says, “I can’t learn anything from you.” If you demonstrate the ability to learn how to help your prospects, they will reward you with opportunities to do just that.

Apply this:

In your next discovery call, use the opening few minutes to gauge their needs, then tailor your demo to meet those needs. 

You’ll not only have a more positive and impactful conversation, but you’ll also instantly build better rapport and increase your chances of making a successful sale.

Here are the top sales qualification questions from Sales Hacker you should always ask your prospect:

  1. What are the details of the decision making process and who is involved?
  2. How have decisions like this been made in the past?
  3. What are your top business priorities for the upcoming year?
  4. What are your top priorities when making this decision?
  5. Are you okay with telling me no?
  6. What’s the best way to communicate with you moving forward?
  7. Will you be my Champion?
  8. What happens if this decision doesn’t get made?
  9. Do you have your calendar in front of you?
  10. Based on today’s conversation, do you think our solution would add value to your business?

#2. Tap into your prospect’s personal buying motives

If business needs ultimately fulfill personal needs, how do you better influence the people you sell to?

It comes down to understanding and quantifying both the rational and non-rational processes by which buyers make decisions. Ironically, we tend to see most sales pitches address rational needs, and rarely the irrational but salient needs that drive the individual’s decisions.

Perceived personal value has twice as much impact as business value on B2B purchasing decisions. (CMO

In fact, 71% of B2B buyers who see personal value will purchase a product. And 68% of B2B buyers who see a personal value will pay a higher price for a service. 

Buyers are people.

Like the rest of us, they have busy schedules and short attention spans. They will only pay attention to and remember the points of the presentation that are immediately relevant and important to them.

Instead of going on and on about all the features and benefits your solution offers, narrow it down to the two or three that are most relevant to the buyer—the ones that align with their dominant buying motive.

There are two broad categories of decision-making: aspirational and preventative. 

  • Aspirational individuals make decisions that enable achievement and positive recognition by others (playing to win).
  • Preventative individuals make decisions to obtain feelings of security and less stress in their interactions with others (playing to not lose).

Harvard Business Review published an article that hones in on this concept, “Do You Play to Win – or to Not Lose?” 

The authors, Heidi Grant Halvorson and E. Tory Higgins, note that individuals are either “promotion” focused or “prevention” focused. 

These motivational differences affect how individuals approach life’s challenges and demands. 

Some individuals are comfortable taking chances, dreaming big, and thinking creatively, but this can lead to hasty work and outcomes that may not provide the intended results, essentially taking a risk.

Prevention individuals, in contrast, see their goals as responsibilities and they concentrate on staying safe. They worry about what could go wrong if they do not work hard enough and tend to be more analytical, sometimes missing a greater reward by avoiding risk. 

The language you use during your sales demo needs to be framed to address your prospect’s dominant motivational focus in order to positively influence them.

Apply this:

Based on the questions you asked in the discovery phase, you likely picked up on signals that would give you an idea of whether your prospect is more of an aspirational or preventative decision-maker.

If you asked the questions from the above list (specifically these two questions: What are your top priorities when making this decision? What happens if this decision doesn’t get made?

), you will almost certainly get a useful response that will help you uncover and assess their personal motivation.

Let’s look at two examples:

Example 1: This prospect tells you he wants to be seen by others as a valuable contributor and feel secure in his job. He is adding a new member to his family in a few months and wants to ensure his family maintains financial security. He tells you his preference is to work with a company who better enables him to hit time and budget goals so he can maintain respect within his position.

Example 2: This prospect tells you she is depending on the success of this project. She wants to be seen as a valuable contributor and get recognition for her efforts. Her preference is to work with a company who can get the answers she needs quickly and provide a lower cost solution so she can maximize her budget in order to do more and try other big, creative ideas. 

Who’s who?

In the first example, you can tell this prospect sees his goals as responsibilities, which means he wants to take the safe route and ensure goals are met.

That means we are dealing with a preventative decision-maker and you should focus on highlighting how your solution reduces risk and minimizes anxiety. 

In the second example, you may notice the prospects’ focus on success. She sees her goals as creating a path to advancement, recognition, and reward. 

This signals we are working with an aspirational decision-maker and you should focus on emphasizing how your solution will help them work quickly, reduce costs, and maximize results, all while making them look good.

#3. Liven up the demo with stories

A typical demo goes something like this:

  1. You log into the screen sharing software, then make chit chat with the prospect for a few minutes while you set up and everyone arrives.
  2. You talk for 30-45 minutes straight while showing the prospect what the software does.
  3. There are a few minutes for questions at the end before the hour is up.


This screams ‘look at this shiny new thing!’ but buyers don’t care about all the bells and whistles. They care about how this product will help them solve a problem or improve their current processes and productivity.  

The truth is, we often get so caught up in features and benefits that we forget that our prospects are human. And humans want connection.

So, how do you capture their attention and create an authentic connection? Storytelling!

When you tell a story, it allows you to take a complicated idea or sophisticated software and break it down into something understandable and relatable. Stories tap into our emotions, motivations, and inspire us to take action. 

In fact, our brains are wired to respond positively to stories.

If you’re struggling to captivate and engage your audience, grab their attention by shaking up the typical agenda and meeting structure with a story. 

Position your sales demo as a narrative that speaks to why your company cares about helping clients like them and how your product can provide a higher ROI than their current process or solution.

Apply this:

A story is one of the only ways to activate the parts of the brain that encourage a listener to relate to their own experiences and then turn that story into their own thoughts and ideas.

Storytelling is an underutilized tool in sales demos, but when used effectively it can accomplish the following:

Provides context:

B2B products are often highly technical and difficult to grasp on a tangible level. 

By casting your prospect in their own story, you allow them to view the product through their own eyes and visualize the real-world impact it can have on their business.

Elicits an emotional response:

A compelling story targets the prospect’s emotions, including frustration over their problem and excitement at the thought of their problem vanishing. 

When you capitalize on this with your demo, it will become personal, rather than a collection of figures and statistics.

When you tell stories and take buyers on an emotional journey, buyers don't just understand where they want to be, they feel it and see it. If that feeling is different and better than how they feel now, they'll be compelled to do something about it and do it with you.

Makes your demo memorable:

Listeners are 22 times more likely to remember a fact when it’s presented as a story.

Stories can act as mnemonic devices. 

If you think back to grade school, you likely learned a few of these to help remember and organize information. 

For instance, the colors of the rainbow (Roy G. Biv) or the planets in our solar system (My Very Educated Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas). Well, I guess the P for Pluto is no longer relevant, but you get the idea.

In the same way, abstract statistics like, “we reduced production costs by 32%,” may not stick on its own, but when it’s wrapped in a story about why it was important to reduce costs, who came up with the new designs, and how they did it, that data point — and the success it represents — becomes memorable and real.

Sales isn't just about finding and winning opportunities, it's about driving change: helping buyers get from where they are now to a better, more improved place.

Make your sales demo stand out

The three elements I’ve shared above are really just the beginning, but the single most important thing you can do to make yourself stand out from the competition is to practice and rehearse, again and again and again.

You only have about nine seconds to captivate your audience.

From my experience of delivering more than 5,000 workshops and speeches to clients all over the world and having trained, coached, and managed more than 50,000 salespeople and managers, I still practice what I want to say 10-12 times before I go on stage.

It’s enough rehearsal time to commit my opening and concluding thoughts to memory and practice the main ideas for each concept I want to share. 

The key is to rehearse the presentation as closely as possible to the actual delivery. If you stumble, make a note of it and keep going. If you want to replace an image on a slide, make a note of it and keep going. Rehearse from start to finish. 

Ideally, your last practice should be a full dress rehearsal in the actual environment where you’ll deliver the presentation.

Since you’ll likely be delivering your sales demo in a virtual environment, consider recording your dress rehearsal or the live demo. Then, review it with your manager. 

I’ll warn you, it may be painful to listen to but, in the end, you’ll be better for it because you’ll be able to pinpoint the areas that still need improvement as well as the spots where you knocked it out of the park.

You wouldn’t expect to put on a first-rate performance without rehearsing, would you? 

Your sales demo is a mission-critical presentation within the sales process and is no different. It should be approached with deliberate thought, practice, and effort. 

Now go show those sales demo who’s boss!

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